Dipika exits in first round; Nicole survives scare

Annie, ranked 10, won the 62-minute thriller against Dipika 11-8, 11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 11-7. Defending champ Nicol David got off to an anxious start as she had to claw back from a game down before putting away first-round opponent Rachael Grinham of Australia.

Dipika Pallikal lost a thrilling five-game match in 62 minutes.   -  V. Ganesan

Dipika Pallikal crashed out of the World Squash Championship here on Tuesday after losing to Hong Kong’s Annie Au in the first round.

Annie, ranked 10, won the 62-minute thriller 11-8, 11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 11-7. The last time the two met was in 2014, in the Tournament of Champions, when Annie won in three games. But it went down to the wire on Tuesday. After losing the first two games, Dipika put up a gallant fight to win the next two but went down in the decisive game. It was the longest match thus far in this edition.

Meanwhile, Nicol David's squash world title defence got off to an anxious start as she had to claw back from a game down before putting away first-round opponent Rachael Grinham of Australia. One of the game's all-time greats, David has already won a record eight world championships but has seen her game falter of late, surrendering the top rank last September after a historic nine-year run.

The Malaysian, 32, who is now ranked number five, started crisply in Kuala Lumpur to take the first game 11-4. But the experienced Grinham, the 2007 world champ, battled back to take the next two games and put the hometown hero's title hopes in jeopardy.

"Rachael got a string of points from the second game and that caught me off guard," said David, who upped the tempo and obliterated the tiring Grinham down the stretch, winning the last two games 11-1, 11-2. "I figured I had to do something extra and readjusted my approach in the final two games. I attacked more and got into my groove after that."

World No. 2 Nour El Sherbini also checked into the second round with a three-game win over Australia's Donna Urquhart.

David is seeking to win the PSA World Championship on home soil in Malaysia for the first time after falling short twice before. David acknowledged before the tournament that her days of squash dominance may be over, and on Tuesday remarked on what is being seen as one of the most competitive women's championship events in years.

"It's tough. You don't always play a former world champion in the first round, but I have got the court feeling and am already looking forward to the next round to play my best squash," she said after her 46-minute victory.

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